Lawyers raise concerns over Molly Katanga bail rejection

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Lawyers raise concerns over Molly Katanga bail rejection
Ms Katanga when she was arraigned in court in January | Courtesy-URN

JUSTICE | The controversial denial of bail to Ms Molly Katanga continues to run the legal discourse with lawyers calling out the judge for his handling of the case.

Ms Katanga, 55, has been denied bail for twice, despite her deteriorating health and proof that she needs better medical management.

She is jointly charged with her two daughters with the murder of her husband, Henry Katanga, who was found dead in their bedroom in Mbuya last November - with an unconscious Molly in the room.

Judge Isaac Muwata on Tuesday locked the cells on Ms Katanga and threw the keys away after her lawyers returned for the second attempt to secure her temporary freedom by fulfilling an earlier demand by the same court.

But High Court judge Muwata said the lawyers had not brought anything new and that the earlier ground for which he had demanded a medical report from Luzira Prison doctor certifying that Ms Katanga needed special treatment the detention facility could no longer holder was not valid anymore.

The judge reiterated that there was nothing new in the bail application, despite confirming he was indeed aware that the suspect, appearing on a video link in bandages, was medically unstable.

Initially, Muwata had bounced Molly Katanga’s application, ruling that her medical report had not been signed or done by specialists from Luzira Prison as stipulated by the law.

He chose to expunge the medical report that had been filed by experts from Mulago Hospital, deeming it inconsequential irrespective of the suspect’s medical predicament.

“In the new application, it could be concluded that the applicant has failed to prove her condition could not be managed by prison authorities. There is no new ground of ailment raised in the application but rather a mere mention of it. This matter was considered in the previous application,” Judge Muwata said in his ruling on May 21.

The judge also said he found no justification to grant the bail because the trial is about to start.

But city lawyer Male Mabirizi and award-winning activist, lawyer and journalist Agather Atuhaire have joined the chorus of legal minds and opinion makers calling out Judge Muwata regarding the handling of the Katanga case.

Mabirizi wondered why the senior judge was shifting goalposts within the law.

“In the earlier Katanga bail application, Muwata held that the law requires Uganda Prisons to certify that they cannot manage her health condition which was lacking. In the new application, he makes a U-turn,” Mabirizi said, adding that Muwata had ‘robbed’ the defence team.

Ms Atuhaire, who is a law graduate, journalist, and activist, reiterated that the "legal system is dead", and it will eventually affect everyone regardless of class, ethnicity, or political inclination.

“Molly Katanga was denied bail for the second time yesterday despite medical reports by state medical experts saying her health condition needs medical attention that Luzira Women’s Prison cannot offer,” she said.

“It seems the state is more interested in her death than her prosecution. Why do we treat suspects as less human despite the bail provisions in our laws? Why do we apply these bail provisions selectively?” she added.

'The right to bail is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 23 (6) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

Its basis is found in Article 28 of the same Constitution which states that an accused person is to be presumed innocent until he/she is proved or he/she pleads guilty.

However, in Uganda, skepticism that courts or individual judges deliberately frustrate these rights remain daunting and an indictment on the Judiciary.

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